Sunset Pointe Restaurant in Fairhope, Alabama

Sunset Pointe, Fairhope, AL

Discovering Fabulous Restaurants and Quaint Shops in Small Towns

One of the perks of living on the Gulf Coast is the proximity of quaint little towns that are a short drive away. A great way to spend a beautiful Saturday is exploring these small towns with their shops and restaurants. Often you can find hidden gems that are on the brink of discovery. You never know what outstanding talent and superb cuisines you may discover in these small towns.

Fairhope, Alabama, is one of those towns. Approximately an hour’s drive from Pensacola. (Give or take a few minutes, depending on whose driving. Ahem. 😁) Fairhope is the perfect spot to spend a leisurely Saturday strolling along the streets of downtown.  A sampling of some of the many and diverse shops you will find in Fairhope include: clothing boutiques, antique shops, art galleries, book stores, coffee shops, wine and speciality food shops, jewelry stores and even thrift shops. As you can see, there’s lots to explore and plenty of options for a lazy weekend afternoon.

Sunset Pointe Restaurant

A great local gem I discovered this year is Sunset Pointe. Pete Blohme opened Sunset Pointe in 2014. I’m sad that it took me 3 years to discover this place. You likely recognize Pete from Panini Pete’s and from his appearances on Food Network’s Diner’s Drive-in and Dives, Guy’s Big Bite and CMT’S Sweet Home Alabama. Pete has kind of made a name for himself, and not just locally.

Sunset Pointe is located on Fly Creek Marina. With this prime location, you can also expect to experience some incredible sunsets as a stunning accompaniment to your evening meal. In typical Gulf Coast, southern hospitality style, the restaurant is comfortable and casual. You have your choice of indoor or outdoor dining. The outdoor dining area sits right on the bay. When the weather is nice, you’ll find this is a popular spot to be. Fire pits add character and warmth for those cooler evenings. Inside, windows line the restaurant to offer you a fantastic view of the bay. Local decor graces the walls. The ambiance is unfussy and relaxed, yet still stylish.

On to the food! These are the tapas and entrée I enjoyed on my visit to Sunset Pointe.

Leo’s Seafood Lettuce Wraps

This was my favorite thing I ate. The seafood in these lettuce wraps was so fresh! It was as if it was caught that very day and immediately served from boat to table. Shrimp, scallops and calamari were marinated in a tangy, citrus vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was peppered with seasoning and spices that added a vibrance and snappiness.

Truth be told, I carefully contemplated ordering these lettuce wraps. I’m not the biggest fan of fried calamari. The few times I’ve had it, I’ve found it chewy and somewhat tough. Up until this point, fried is the only way I had ever eaten calamari. I figured I would give it a try marinated. This was game-changing! I never want to go back to fried calamari.

This grilled calamari was not the LEAST bit leathery or overdone. It was tender and full of flavor. The Gulf Shrimp and scallops were equally delicate. Served on a leaf of butter lettuce, this tapas was my favorite of the evening. Sadly, my photo of this wonderful dish has been deleted, but you can view a picture of it here on Sunset Pointe’s website.

Seared Tuna Nachos

The tuna on these nachos was just the way I like my tuna. Gently seared along the outer perimeter of the tuna slices and leaving a bright pink center that is fresh and imparts levels of clean flavor.  The tuna rests atop golden, crunchy nachos. These nachos are not your typical corn tortillas, but rather are fried flour tortillas. The flour lends itself to be a delicate crunch instead of a hard and brittle texture. It pairs quite well texturally with the tuna.

Sunset Pointe, Fairhope, AL
Seared Tuna Nachos

Yellow bell pepper dices, chopped onion pieces, tiny segments of tomatoes and roasted edamame adorn the nachos. There are two kinds of edamame on these nachos; traditional green edamame and black edamame.  I really enjoyed the roasted black edamame and the dry saltiness it contributed to the dish. A light green edamame drizzle finished off this small plate and added a rich earthiness to round out the flavors.

Sunset Pointe, Fairhope, AL

 

Gulf Snapper Throats

Continuing the trend of trying new things, the Gulf Snapper Throats was the entrée of choice. Fried crisp with a flour and cornmeal batter, these snapper throats were salty with a good crunch.  If you’re like me and have never eaten snapper throats before, you may not know what to expect. This part of the fish is rather bony, so you have to work a little harder for the meat. However, as it is meat that is near the bone, it tends to be more succulent and tasty as it absorbs all the flavors of the bones.

A house starch and vegetable complimented the snapper throats. For this evening the starch happened to be roasted cauliflower. Marinated in a balsamic sauce and roasted to an almost caramelized texture, the cauliflower was exquisite. Even if you’re not a fan of cauliflower, you MUST try this! Not the least bit mushy, this cruciferous vegetable was the star of the entrée in my opinion. This vegetable was flavorsome and sapid with that salty, sweet tang of the balsamic vinegar.

The vegetable of the evening was baby limas. The baby limas were a nice accessory to the cauliflower and snapper throats. Well-seasoned and coated with savoriness, they were firm with a good al-dente texture. Anything but bland, these limas were tempered with fixings that reminded you of all the flavors of good, southern comfort food.

Sunset Pointe, Fairhope, AL
Gulf Snapper Throats

I’m happy to say that Sunset Pointe was a win and I have every intention of eating there again next time I’m in Fairhope. I may even have to make a special trip to Fairhope JUST to enjoy the food and view at Sunset Pointe.

Sunset Pointe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tapas at Carmen’s Lunch Bar

Carmen's Lunch Bar

Carmen’s Lunch Bar – The Perfect Local Spot for Tapas and Those “Wanna Get Away” Moments

Do you ever have one of those “wanna get away” moments? Southwest certainly capitalized on a catchy and relatable tagline with that phrase. I think we all have those moments from time to time. Sometimes you just need a little break; a reprieve in the midst of a chaotic and stressful week. While Southwest has definitely made weekend get aways more financially feasible, mid-week get aways aren’t necessarily an easy feat to swing.

For those times when I can’t physically leave town, I’ve found a simple and practical solution: treating myself to tapas at Carmen’s Lunch Bar. It’s definitely kinder to your bank account. Not to mention, it’s infinitely easier to coordinate a food itinerary of tapas than it is to organize a travel itinerary. 

So next time you’re feeling that “need to get away” moment, look no further than Pensacola. Carmen’s Lunch Bar is an ideal spot to treat yourself to a “get away” moment that’s convenient and indulgent. Located at the corner of Palafox and Main Street, Carmen’s Lunch Bar is in the heart of downtown Pensacola. It’s a cozy bar and restaurant that serves outstanding tapas.

Mapping it Out

Inside the atmosphere exudes a posh, urban feel. Seating is predominantly around the main bar which is situated centrally in a squared-off U-shape. The atmosphere is warm and inviting; perfect for dining solo or meeting a friend. If your preference is indoor dining with a view, there is seating at a narrow table that runs the length of a window facing Palafox. There is also the option of dining outside. This is my preference and I often opt for this when the weather accommodates.

Carmen’s Lunch Bar offers a fixed menu as well as daily specials that revolve around seasonal, garden-fresh ingredients. The menu is a fusion of Southern and International influences that come together in a type of cuisine-nouveau. Vibrant and piquant culinary masterpieces that are pleasing to the eye as well as the palate.

On my most recent trip to Carmen’s Lunch Bar my food itinerary included the Creamy White Sweet Potato Soup, Tostas de Boquerones, and Carrot Whipped Potatoes with Kale and Feta. To finish it off: Butterscotch Cheesecake.

Creamy White Sweet Potato Soup

This dish sets the mood for your entire meal. Warm and rich, this soup addresses the elements of sweet and savory in unique symmetry. The white sweet potato gives the soup a slightly saccharine taste, yet not overly so. Less salt and starch than a traditional potato soup, yet not as bold as the typical sweet potato. The garnish of dried cranberries, chopped pistachios and sprinkling of cilantro give the soup a multi-dimensional flavor that arouses and delights the senses. Smooth, light, crunchy, chewy – there are so many textures going on in this soup. It’s hitting all the senses and creating a beautiful culinary symphony.

Carmen's Lunch Bar
Creamy White Sweet Potato Soup

Tostas de Boquerones

Boquerones are a popular Spanish tapa. Typically, it is a white fish such as an anchovy or sardine. Carmen’s Tostas de Boquerones are made with white anchovies and a creamy Romesco sauce. Romesco is a sauce of Spanish origin. It is traditionally made with roasted red pepper and almond. This lovely ruby-red Romesco sauce is a rustic purée that dresses the crisp crostini. Atop the Romesco sauce sit the thin, white anchovies. Last but not least, a generous dusting of parsley adds another bright and colorful pop to this plate.

The taste of these Tostas de Boquerones are pleasing in every way. The white anchovies deliver a rush of saltiness. This is tempered by the Romesco sauce which delivers a lively composition of lush red peppers, almonds and spices. The carrier for this saline bite, the tostas, add that quintessential lusty, buttery crunch. The perfect accompaniment to this savory small plate.

Carmen's Lunch Bar
Tostas de Boquerones

Carrot Whipped Potatoes With Kale and Feta

The elements of this dish are not ones I would have naturally paired together. Fortunately, Carmen saw the ingenuity in melding these ingredients into a dish that will change everything you think about carrots and kale. This warm, miniature tureen ushers in an experience for the taste buds.

The carrots and potatoes are beaten into a velvety, potato likeness. You taste the dimensions of butter, starch and salt, with a whisper of sweetness. Cutting through this fluffy cloud of carrot and potatoes are ribbons of hearty kale. The fibrous texture of the kale gives this dish a definitive chew. The suitable bitterness of the kale is further refined and slightly muted by the sharp, saline tanginess of the toasted feta. While this dish may not strike everyone’s fancy, I particularly enjoyed it.

Carmen's Lunch Bar
Carrot Whipped Potatoes with Kale and Feta

Butterscotch Cheesecake

A pure sweet ecstasy! And to think, I almost declined this delicious dessert! It would have been a mistake of epic proportions. This cheesecake has a silken texture. The cream cheese, egg and sugar are whisked together precisely so that the taste is rich and sweet and goes down effortlessly. Unique to this cheesecake is the absence of a crust. This aspect adds to the charm. The butterscotch sauce is a viscous amalgamation of butter and brown sugar. Shavings of bittersweet chocolate balances out the sweetness. When you finish this delight, you’re sad it’s over. So sad in fact, you’re tempted to order another so you can repeat this exquisite experience.

Carmen's Lunch Bar
Butterscotch Cheesecake

 

Carmen's Lunch Bar
Pure Delight

Next time you’re struck with a “wanna get away” moment consider traveling no further than a short drive to downtown Pensacola. A meal of tapas at Carmen’s Lunch Bar may be just the escape you need. Creative cuisine infused with international flavors can transport you to a serene get away, and all without the need to pack a suitcase.